Health Secretary and GCU alumna Jeane Freeman returned to campus to announce an increase in student nursing and midwifery places in Scotland for 2019/20.
The former sociology and politics student was greeted by Principal Professor Pamela Gillies and Dean of the School of Health and Life Sciences Andrea Nelson during a tour of the School’s Inter-Professional Simulation Centre where she chatted to staff and nursing students.
Ms Freeman was joined by Chief Nursing Officer Fiona McQueen to reveal that student intake levels across Scotland will rise by a further 7.6 per cent to a record high of more than 4000.
Professor Gillies said: “We were delighted to welcome Health Secretary Jeane Freeman to our state-of-the-art facilities within the School of Health and Life Sciences.
"As one of the largest providers of nursing education in Scotland, GCU is fully supportive of the Cabinet Secretary’s announcement to increase student nursing and midwifery places for 2019/20 and is committed to working with the Scottish Government to ensure that the next generation of nurses are provided with the best possible learning and teaching experience, in order to meet the requirements of the health service in the future.”
Ms Freeman spent time talking to Dr Jacqueline McCallum, Head of GCU’s Department of Nursing and Community Health, first-year nursing student Rachel Slade, and third-year students Craig Davidson and Terri McClymont about their experiences.
Dr McCallum said: “We welcome the Scottish Government’s further increase in nursing student numbers. We currently have over 1800 undergraduate nursing students – the second highest intake in Scotland. GCU has one of the best retention and completion rates in the country and ranks the highest in Scotland for earnings one year following graduation at £26,300, which is 4.2 per cent higher than the Scottish average.”
During her visit, Ms Freeman also underlined the announcement made by the First Minister in October, that all eligible nursing and midwifery students across Scotland will benefit from an increased bursary in 2019/20, rising to £10,000 a year in 2020/21.
She said that increasing the student nursing and midwifery intake for the 2019/20 academic year was one of a number of measures to support the sustained recruitment and retention of NHS staff.
The Cabinet Secretary pointed out that almost 460 former nurses and midwives have signed up to retrain through the Return to Practice programme since 2015 and the Scottish Government is funding the Open University to deliver a pre-registration programme, currently supporting around 116 nursing students.
Speaking during the GCU visit, Ms Freeman said: "Our nurses and midwives are critical to the success of our NHS and will continue to be so. We are acutely aware of the demand across Scotland in a variety of settings and I want to ensure our NHS is well equipped to continue to provide the best possible care for patients.
"We are determined to ensure we recruit and retain the next generation of staff to meet these needs. That is why we are again increasing nursing and midwifery student intake, with more than 4,000 places available in 2019/20.
"It is also vital we support the nurses and midwives of the future during their education, which is why our bursaries are the best in the UK. By increasing this support, which is non-means tested and non-repayable, to £10,000 by 2020/21 we'll make studying easier for those seeking a rewarding career in our health service."